a woman holding an insulin injection pen
Education on Diabetes, Top Tips

Insulin Resistance and Inflammation

What is insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is when cells across the body do not respond well to insulin. This means glucose remains in the bloodstream rather than moving into cells.

This can lead to elevated blood glucose, potentially resulting in pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

Vicious cycle

high blood pressure - insulin resistance

When we start to develop insulin resistance, the body starts to produce more inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines then amplify insulin resistance, showing a vicious cycle between the two.

Other markers of inflammation are often implicated in type 2 diabetes. This includes having high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease, kidney disease, neuropathy and retinopathy.

Simple ways to boost insulin sensitivity and decrease inflammation

1.Remove refined and processed sugars – The best place to start is to remove/decrease foods that cause blood sugars to spike rapidly. Processed sugars can also contribute towards increased cytokines, so be sure to stick to natural sugars.

2. Eat 8 portions of the rainbow everyday – The body needs a lot of antioxidants to overcome insulin resistance, and to prevent any damage to the body. So try to eat 8 handfuls of fresh fruit and veg everyday. Also try herbal teas (green tea is great). They are generally very high in antioxidants.

walking to reduce insulin resistance

3. Get moving – Having a sedentary lifestyle is linked to the onset of insulin resistance, so be sure to get some movement in everyday. A great habit to get into is to walk after your evening meal. The exercise helps to increase insulin sensitivity, preventing a big glucose spike.

4. Eat fermented foods – A link has been found between insulin resistance and having less ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. Try and eat one fermented food everyday, such as greek yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir or kombucha. This will help to decrease inflammation and will aid healthy digestion.

5. Rest up – having a stable sleep pattern is vital for overall health and helping the body to heal. So try and get 8-10 hours of sleep and stick to your schedule for the majority!

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If you liked this post, be sure to check out Oxidative Stress 101 and 5 ways to reduce your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes

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Education on Diabetes, Top Tips

The Morning Phenomenon

Some people living with diabetes struggle with the morning phenomenon (AKA – high blood sugars in the morning). This can be confusing as we don’t expect our sugars to rise when we are sleeping and not eating.

There are a couple of different causes of the morning phenomenon, so here is everything you need to know, as well as how you can help to prevent it!

Hormones

morning phenomenon

In the morning the body secretes cortisol and growth hormone. Both hormones cause blood sugar levels to rise to give us enough energy to wake up. Of course people living with diabetes either cannot make insulin, or have insulin resistance. Therefore too much sugar remains in the blood.

Morning spikes can cause fatigue as it interrupts energy delivery, so it is something we really want to prevent.

The best way to combat this is to look at your basal insulin. Take a look at your dose with your doctor and they can help to recommend a different dose, or perhaps a better time to take your basal insulin.

Waning insulin

Another cause of the morning phenomenon is not having enough insulin in your blood to last the whole night. Of course this will result with higher sugar levels.

Again, taking a look at your basal insulin is the best place to start. If you take your basal in the morning it may not last until the following morning. You and your team may decide to increase your basal dose, or even consider basal splitting. This is when you take the basal in divided doses so you have enough background insulin 24/7.

The Somogyi effect

hypo snack - morning phenomenon

The Somogyi effect is when a low blood sugar in the night causes a rebound high blood sugar. The body is overcompensating for the low blood sugar, and releases too much sugar into the blood.

The best way to prevent the Somogyi effect is to prevent the hypo in the first place. So make sure you eat enough carbs with your evening meal and try to limit exercise late at night. Always check your sugars before going to sleep, and I advise having a snack if you are below 5.0mmol/L.

My final tip is to have a portioned hypo snack by your bedside. This will prevent you over-treating a hypo during the night.

Thank you for reading the Morning Phenomenon, I hope this was useful! Be sure to subscribe and follow me on Instagram!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out Exam stress and sugar levels and Summer travelling tips


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Education on Diabetes, Top Tips

Summer travelling tips

There is lots to think about when getting ready to go travelling with diabetes.

This post will cover what might happen to your sugar levels, general tips about travelling and how to keep your insulin safe in the heat.

Sugar levels

time zones, summer travelling

The heat can cause low blood sugar levels for some people. When temperatures rise, the body dilates blood vessels to help us cool down. Dilated blood vessels can cause insulin to absorb more rapidly, resulting in a hypo. Bear this in mind and carry multiple hypo snacks.

The heat can also cause high blood sugar for some people. As I will explain below, hot temperatures can damage insulin meaning it doesn’t work properly. My best advice is to check your sugars more frequently so you catch hypo’s and hyper’s early.

If you are changing time zones, I strongly advice talking to your consultant or doctor first. You can make a plan together to safely adjust your insulin throughout your trip.

Insulin

If insulin is left in direct sunlight or heat for a prolonged period of time, it will cause the insulin to ‘denature’.

keep insulin in the shade

This means the insulin is damaged and it will not work properly when injected into the body. This of course can cause high sugar levels because the insulin is not doing its job.

Therefore, it is vital to keep your insulin in the shade, and/or in a cool pack to prevent this from happening.

I recommend checking amazon out for insulin cool packs. This will allow you to enjoy your time at the beach (or whatever you are doing) without worrying about your insulin.

Also make sure you take spare insulin cartridges to replace damaged insulin. Sometimes it does happen and there isn’t much we can do about it. Keep yourself covered so this doesn’t stop you from having fun!

CGM’s and pumps

When travelling with a pump you will need to adjust the time zone on the pump to make sure you are receiving the correct amount of basal insulin.

Furthermore, heat can cause sensors to stop working sometimes, so it is important to take breaks and get your sensor out of the sun.

Always take spares – this covers any faulty sensors, or if your holiday gets extended due to flight cancellations or changing plans.

* Pumps and CGM’s should not go through airport scanners. This is because the x-rays can damage them. Make sure you get a doctors note explaining this and always carry a copy with you when travelling.

Also take a finger stick monitor and insulin pens with you to cover yourself. The last thing you want when travelling is to be panicking and trying to access medication.

Summary check list

diabetic supplies, summer travelling
  • Spare pumps
  • Spare CGM’s or FGM’s
  • Insulin pens (both basal and bolus)
  • Spare insulin cartridges for pen/pump
  • Needles
  • Testing monitor
  • Finger stick needles
  • Finger stick testing strips
  • Ketone strips and monitor
  • Cool pack for insulin
  • Hypo snacks for the journey/duration of the holiday
  • Plenty of water
  • Hand wipes
  • Medical tape (I always pack this incase my sensor becomes loose in the water/heat)
  • Doctors note to go through security with diabetic supplies

*Ensure you take enough supplies for the duration of your trip + a few days extra. Keep yourself covered for any damaged or lost medication/equipment, or if you stay longer than originally planned.

Thank you for reading Summer travelling tips! Be sure to subscribe and follow me on Instagram!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out Jamie Oliver’s Jerk Chicken Recipe and 5 foods packed with hidden sugars!

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Education on Diabetes, Psychological, Top Tips

Exam stress and sugar levels

Everyone living with diabetes knows how much stress can impact glucose control. Exam season can be incredibly stressful and keeping sugar levels stable plays an integral role in exam success.

Keep reading for my top tips on handling exam stress to keep sugar levels in check.

1. Eat regular meals

balanced meals - exam stress

It is really easy to get into the routine of consistently eating more or less when we are stressed.

So make sure you are eating 3 balanced meals a day and have snacks in between if needed. Keeping your eating routine the same will also help to keep your sugars in check.

When I am taking exams I like to meal prep so my meals are ready to go. Try and set aside an hour or two to get your food organised, this will really help!

My favourite revision/exam snacks include dark chocolate, rice crackers, nuts or an apple with peanut butter.

2. Exercise outdoors

outdoors - exam stress

Prepping for exams means sitting down and being sedentary for a long time. So getting outdoors to get fresh air, sun and exercise is vital.

Walking outdoors is calming, which makes it productive. Listen to music or a funny podcast or Youtube video. This allows your brain some rest time.

Remember to rehydrate afterwards!

3. Epsom salt baths

At the end of a busy day, take a bath with Epsom salts. This helps to replenish magnesium, is a vital mineral for relaxation.

Magnesium can become depleted during periods of chronic stress, so it is important to replace the magnesium lost.

Ty and eat magnesium rich foods everyday too, such as dark leafy greens, raw cacao powder, lentils, peanuts and cashews.

4. Regular sleep pattern

Having a consistent sleep routine boosts both mood and memory. Getting enough sleep decreases adrenaline spikes which is important in maintaining balanced sugar levels.

Feeling well rested is vital for being productive and disciplined, so make this a priority in your life.

Encourage sleep by getting blackout blinds, removing blue light 1-2 hours before bedtime and keep your bedroom at a cool temperature.

5. Get organised

organised - exam stress

Make yourself a schedule that allows time for everything!

‘Winging it‘ during exam season will contribute towards stress, so we want to avoid this.

At the beginning of every week write yourself a schedule that includes study time, exercise, lunch and coffee breaks and time for an activity you enjoy to de-stress.

Most importantly, make sure you actually stick to it. Remember it takes around 30 days to form a new habit, so stay as consistent as you can.

Also remember exam season is not forever and plan something exciting afterwards to look forward to.

celebrate - exam stress

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If you liked this post, be sure to check out Is stress making your glucose levels impossible to control? and Peanut Butter Bites!

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Top Tips

5 Top Tips for Skiing with t1d!

All of these tips are from my personal experience. I have lived in the French Alps for four winter seasons, so I hope these tips help you!

1. The cold can increase insulin absorption time

insulin absorption time - skiing with t1d

When it is cold our blood vessels constrict. This means there is a smaller surface area for insulin to absorb into the blood.

This can cause spikes after eating, so it might be a good idea to inject a little while before eating to allow absorption time.

2. Everyone’s sugars react differently

Skiing uses a lot of energy, so most expect more hypo’s. However, with slower insulin absorption and potential adrenaline spikes from nerves, sugars can spike unexpectedly.

Remember sugar levels do not have to be in range 100% of the time, so my advice is to keep a close eye on your levels and take small correction doses when necessary. Try not to rage bolus if you have high levels!

3. Carry a decent snack

snack skiing with t1d

Don’t just shove a couple biscuits in your pocket and think this will be enough (speaking from experience here).

Take fast acting glucose, like glucose tablets or Kendal Mint Cake which are easy to fit into a pocket.

Also take some complex carbs with you like a energy bar or some biscuits.

You are going to need access to a substantial snack, so make sure you have money with you to buy food/drinks.

4. Store your insulin right

When skiing, keep your insulin in a pocket closer to your body to prevent it from freezing.

Thermal pockets might be better than pockets in your outside layer!

Another tip is to consider the temperature of your accommodation. Often chalets, apartments and hotel rooms are really hot, so make sure your insulin is in a cooler part of the room or the fridge.

5. CGM’s/FGM’s and the cold 

Sometimes CGM’s/FGM’s do not like the cold and might display ‘sensor too cold’.

skiing and t1d testing

Always carry your finger stick monitor so you have a way of checking your levels. And of course make sure you have strips and needles for the duration of your day and trip! 

Thank you for reading my top tips on skiing with t1d! I hope you found this useful. Be sure to subscribe and follow me on Instagram! 

If you like this post, be sure to check out How I ran Tough Mudder while managing Type 1! and Peanut Butter Bites!

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Fitness, Top Tips

How to handle a hyper mid-workout

When our sugar levels spike during a workout it can be super confusing and we are left not knowing what to do. Here are my tips on preventing sugar spikes and how to correct it!

Why do hyper’s hit mid-workout?

why hyper's can hit mid-workout

One of the main reasons a hyper hits mid-workout is due to adrenaline.

Your body secretes adrenaline to increase your heart rate and increase oxygen delivery to working muscles. Adrenaline also increases glucose release into the blood so you have plenty of energy to workout.

Normally, small amounts of insulin would be secreted from the pancreas to ensure glucose can be used as energy. Of course people living with type 1 diabetes cannot do this, so we must adjust our prep.

The aim of the game is to find trends during exercise, e.g. when you spike, when you drop and what helps you to stay in range.

Don’t panic if you get it wrong, sometimes we have to make mistakes to learn. I used to get it wrong all the time and it would result in me having to stop my workout.

Prepping to workout

There are so many factors to consider when prepping to workout, some to consider are:

sleep - hypers during workout
  • The type of exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Insulin doses
  • How much you slept on the previous night
  • Recent alcohol consumption
  • Stage of menstrual cycle

In order to get your prep right, you have to record and learn how certain factors impact your sugar levels. For example, if I sleep less than 7 hours the night before weight training, I can expect my sugar levels to spike. I have noticed this time and time again, therefore I know my workout prep requires more insulin.

The menstrual cycle is a big factor for women to consider. Sugar levels tend to spike at certain stages, so it is a really good idea for women to track their sugar levels over a few months and apply what is noticed.

In summary, take a few weeks/months (as long as you need) to track how your sugar levels react to situations. You can then adjust your nutrition, training method and insulin dose to accommodate and keep your levels in range!

Correcting a hyper mid-workout

cardio - hyper's during workout

We need to be careful not to over correct here, the last thing we want is to drop into a hypo!

The type of workout I’m doing decides how I treat high sugars.

If I’m weight lifting I will inject a bigger correction dose (usually 1-2 units) and swap to cardio based exercise until my sugars come back down.

If I’m doing cardio and spike (this is pretty rare for me), I will inject a smaller dose (1/2- 1 unit) and continue with cardio.

When sugar levels spike above 13mmol/L I would recommend stopping your workout and continuing once your levels return to normal. This rarely happens to me, but if it does, I will calculate a correction dose and go for a slow walk. This is how I treat hyper’s normally.

If your sugar levels consistently spike while working out, you need to bring this up when you see your consultant. They will help you make a plan and can give you tips on how to calculate your insulin doses based on your sugar level data.

wood love summer writing

Thank you for reading how to handle a hyper mid-workout! I hope you found this useful, be sure to subscribe and follow me on Instagram!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out How to handle a hypo mid-workout! and my Simple guide to fitness with diabetes!

Education on Diabetes, Top Tips

5 ways to handle high carb meals

Sometimes all we fancy is a nice burger and chips, but the anxiety of our sugar levels spiking stops us.

Here are my top 5 ways to handle high carb meals, so you can eat that cheat meal and stay in range!

1. Nail your insulin to carb ratio

Finding your insulin to carb ratio should be part of your consultation with your endocrinologist.

Insulin to cab ratio is essentially how many units of insulin you need per 10 grams of carbs. If you know this number, it makes it 10x easier to figure out how much insulin you need for each meal.

If you are unsure of your ratio, be sure to ask your consultant at your next appointment!

2. Pair it with protein and good fats

Having a balanced meal with carbs, protein and fat is essential. The presence of fat and protein slows down the digestion of carbs, slowing down the absorption of sugar. This really helps to keep sugar levels balanced post mealtime.

So ensure you are having a portion of protein – a palm sized portion of meat/fish/tofu, or 2-3 eggs for example.

Also ensure you are consuming good fats with your meals – by good fats I mean unsaturated fats. E.g. extra virgin olive oil, avocado, hummus, nuts, seeds etc.

3. Staying active is your bestie

walking - high carb meals

Another trick I like to use when eating higher carb is to walk post meal.

I like to go for a leisurely walk with my family/friends for around 30 minutes, or until my glucose comes back down into range. I will usually begin walking when my glucose goes above 9mmol/L with sharp rise (arrow pointing up on my FGM).

This not only keeps sugars balanced, but it is also a lovely routine to get into for socialising and for mental health!

4. Go for brown carbs

 brown rice- high carb meals

If you can, opt for brown or wholegrain carb sources. I know this is harder when eating out, so don’t sweat it if you can’t – it is fine to eat white carbs every now and then!

The reason I recommend brown carbs is because they contain higher amounts of fibre, protein, essential fatty acids and micronutrients than white carbs.

Therefore, opting for brown for the most part of your diet is adding essential nutrients!

5. Give your insulin enough time to kick in

Another tip I have is to give your insulin enough time to kick in. This amount of time varies between individuals, but it is a tip that has helped me so much!

Before higher carb meals (for me that is 60g of carbs or more) I will inject about 20 minutes before eating. – This works wonders for me, if you want to try out this tip I recommend starting slowly to avoid hypo’s.

So start with injecting 10 minutes before eating, then increase or decrease this time if you spike afterwards. Set a timer straight after you administer the insulin so you know exactly when to eat!

Experiment and adjust this time until you find what suits you! – Using an FGM or CGM is especially helpful for this!

timer - high carb meal tips

Thank you for reading 5 ways to handle high carb meals, I hope you found this useful! Be sure to subscribe and follow me on Instagram!

If you liked this post, be sure to check 5 ways to improve digestion! and 5 Easy ways to lower your HbA1c!

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Top Tips

The New Year’s Resolution ‘hype’

2022 has just begun, which means all of the ‘new year, new me’ propaganda is being thrown in everyone’s face.

Please remember

New Year's resolution

Don’t get me wrong, setting new goals and making positive lifestyle changes is vital! This is all part of growing and developing, but sometimes the whole hype around having to set a year’s resolution can be toxic and unsustainable.

So please don’t get dragged into this. Some red flags to look out for include people or posts making claims like ‘how to lose X amount of weight in 2 weeks’.

Remember it does not have to be a new week, month or year in order to make a positive change.

A summary on how to make sustainable changes

  • Make a list or mind map of goals you would like to accomplish (short and long term)
  • Pick your top 3 MOST important goals
Goal setting - new year's resolution
  • Make them realistic and specific – I.e. breaking long term goals into smaller tasks.
  • Find motivation, and more importantly discipline – ask yourself why you set this goal? This is why you get up everyday and complete a small task in order to reach that important goal!
  • Remember to look after your mental health. Prioritise tasks that you enjoy, self-care is productive and is an essential part of getting to where you want to be.
  • Embrace your emotions – if you’ve had a bad day, it is what it is! Take a few hours or even days off, let your emotions out, then get back to it!

For more info, check out How to set sustainable goals for yourself!

Thank you for reading The New Year’s Resolution ‘hype’, I wish you a very happy new year! I hope you found this post useful! Be sure to subscribe and follow me on Instagram!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out 5 foods packed with hidden sugars! and Jack Iredale on managing type 1, while playing professional football!

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red and white happy birthday cake
Top Tips

Merry Christmas from Defying Diabetes!

merry Christmas

This is just a quick Merry Christmas from us and a massive thank you to all of the amazing Defying Diabetes readers!

I’ll keep this post short, but here are a couple of things to do to get the most out of your Christmas.

  1. Stay hydrated
  2. Go for a walk with your family
  3. Tell your loved ones you love them
  4. Play a game!
  5. And eat lots of amazing food and drink!
Merry Christmas from Defying Diabetes

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If you liked this post, be sure to check out Christmas Turkey Curry Recipe! and Delicious Banana Brownie Recipe!

gingerbread man near coffee mug
Top Tips

Christmas activity ideas!

This weeks post is a little different, I want to focus on mental health and general wellbeing. Christmas is such a lovely time of year, it often passes by so quickly, leaving us thinking we should have been more festive!

So I’m going to share some fun Christmas activity ideas you can do with your family and friends to make the most of the festive season!

1. Create a Christmas movie list

This is something I love to do every year with my family! There is nothing better than snuggling up with a blanket, a hot drink and watching a great movie!

Making a list also gets you super excited, here are some ideas for your Christmas movie list:

home alone
  • Elf
  • Home alone 1 & 2
  • The Christmas Chronicles 1 & 2 (Netflix)
  • The Grinch (2018)
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
  • Love Actually
  • Gremlins

2. Go to a Christmas Market

Christmas markets are absolutely beautiful, there is so much to enjoy including:

Christmas market - Christmas activities
  • Christmas lights
  • Traditional food and drinks
  • Gift buying
  • Decoration Inspo and buying
  • Ice skating
  • Meeting Santa with little ones

You can also find some amazing gifts to support small local businesses.

The majority of Christmas markets are outdoors which is great for COVID. Being outdoors helps to decrease the spread of the virus, so if you are worried about COVID, this might be a good activity to choose!

3. Get baking!

I absolutely love baking, especially during the Christmas season! So grab a family member, or a friend and get in the kitchen!

Here are some ideas!:

4. Host a Christmas cocktail competition

Obviously this one is more for adults, I usually split everyone into teams of two (you can do it individually!) and every team has to come up with and make a cocktail.

After trying every cocktail, each team votes which one is the best. It can get quite competitive, but I think it’s great fun!

Some other Christmas activity ideas:

gingerbread house - Christmas activities
  • Complete a Christmas puzzel
  • Build a gingerbread house
  • Make mulled wine
  • Play secret Santa
  • Make your own decorations
  • Christmas photoshoot

Thank you for reading The best Christmas activities! I hope you enjoyed this post and got some great ideas! Be sure to subscribe and follow me on Instagram!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out How to stay on track this Christmas! and Is ‘diabetic’ chocolate really healthier?